I wasn’t expecting a grading! I’d been told I’d wear white belt until my dan grade in December – if all goes well. However, on June 29th my school had a student grading and in my lesson in the morning, my teacher asked if I wanted to take a test. Naturally, I said yes.
Grading in Korea, regardless of school or style is quite different to back home. There are no panel of judges, no certificates and little or no formality.
My first task was to perform the slow breathing sequence ‘Dan Cheon Ho Heup’ (단전호흡) and ‘Mija Begi‘ (미자베기). I remember thinking at the time that in comparison to taekwondo, they probably consisted the core of yellow belt. Next, I was asked to perform ‘Ee-dong-shik Mija Begi‘ (이동식 미자베기) and immediately hit a clanger! I’d only learnt it the week before and hadn’t yet memorized the movements. I’m certain I would have gained red belt if I had known the movements.
Finally it was time for the biggy, ‘Ssang Su Do Keom Beop’ (쌍수도검법); all four parts, one after the other. I really couldn’t make any errors here. I know from experience that testing is quite easy in Korea but there seems less leniency for a mistake and usually no opportunity is given to correct it.
I performed the entire pattern without mistakes though my style and technique is seriously lacking and will take a long time to improve. However, I did perform a technique incorrectly and it lost me either marks or a higher belt.
As it was, Master Kweon presented me with a new blue belt and tied it on for me. I really want the 1st gup belt because it’s black and red with gold lettering and is actually more attractive than a black belt.
I was tempted to ask for a grading before I go on vacation but decided to consolidate my technique while away and then take a grading in September.
I don’t think I needed to perform all four sections of Ssang Su Do Keom Beop for blue belt, but suspect the complete form is needed for 1st gup.
I now train three mornings a week as a private students and three-four evenings I train in a class with students. Then, if I’m injury free, I’ll train sometimes early morning or in the evening or weekend either on my roof or in the park. I’ve noticed, when we do sequences and forms in class, that often the other blue belt has sat down because they don’t know the sequence or pattern and sometimes, I’ve been left only with black belt students. Indeed, sometimes the 1st gup student (red-black belt) has sat down before me.
I haven’t washed my white belt and I’m quite proud of it because the sweat and grime on it marked my return to martial arts. Indeed, if I had to dispense of one or the other, I’d dispense of the blue belt.
‘A black belt – simply a white belt who never gave up!’